Rhia and I Have Published a Book!

Rhia and I have published a children’s poetry book together!

It came about because Rhia loves to draw these adorable mushroom doodles (among others) and I told her they were so fun that they ought to be in a children’s book.  She suggested that I could write some poems to accompany them, and we decided to do a joint children’s book together.

It’s filled with poems that are silly, sentimental and occasionally educational, all about mushrooms, nature, fairies and other related topics.

We had so much fun doing it, and I’m so proud of our finished book!

You can check out the book on amazon here: Poems from Under a Toadstool (affiliate link).



Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited

If you’re a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited, you can read my books, Elderberries: The Beginner’s Guide to Foraging, Preserving and Using Elderberries for Health Remedies, Recipes, Drinks and More (with over 60 recipes for health remedies, desserts, jellies, wines, liqueurs and more), and A Magical Homeschool: Nature Studies (52 Wonderful Ways to Use Nature Studies in Every Season to Teach Science, Math, Art and More) for free!

Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited

I’m enrolled in KDP on Amazon, which means these books are only available through Amazon and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read them (and over a million other titles) for free.

We’ve been subscribed to KU for a few months and I’ve found a lot of great books for myself and the kids.  I started a Facebook group, Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited to share good homeschooling books available through KU if you’re looking for new titles, too.

Homeschooling with Kindle Unlimited

I have found and shared lots of great books on the Facebook page so far, from Harry Potter to classic literature to math and science joke books to secular Charlotte Mason homeschool books to books about Vikings and parts of speech and woodworking projects…

Authors subscribed to the KDP program get paid a tiny payment per page read when their books are read through Kindle Unlimited, so if you are enrolled in KU this is a great free way to support your favorite authors too.  🙂

You can find out more about Kindle Unlimited here, and also sign up for a free 30 day trial (which is what we initially did to see if it was a good fit and then we decided to keep it).

Please leave comments about good books you know of in the program or subjects you’re interested in!

(This page contains affiliate links)


New Book!

My Kindle book went live on Amazon this morning!

You can find it here: A Magical Homeschool: Nature Studies (52 Wonderful Ways to Use Nature Studies in Every Season to Teach Science, Math, Art and More) (affiliate link).

This is utterly terrifying new territory, but very exciting nonetheless.  🙂

It’s broken down into four seasons, with 13 activities for each season (enough for one every week of the year).  They are designed to work with multiple ages, so families can do the activities together.

Examples of the activities include:


  • Test your garden soil pH with vinegar.
  • Make homemade playdough and dye it with a variety of natural materials to make all different colors.
  • Use an empty Valentines Day chocolate box to start a rock collection.


  • Count cricket chirps to tell the temperature (with information about how crickets make the chirps and why they speed up when it’s warm).
  • Use a magnet to find micrometeorites at the beach.
  • Use ants for nature studies (draw a chalk maze to see if they’ll run it to avoid the chalk lines, watch how they’ll follow an invisible path on a piece of paper if you turn it after they start walking a line on it, test out various natural repellents, etc.).


  • Use glycerine to preserve a branch of colorful fall leaves.
  • Use apples for a variety of science and nature (and homemaking) projects.
  • Do an amped up scavenger hunt with all the kids (past the usual find something blue kind of stuff, find something Native Americans used for food or medicine, find an insect that’s an omnivore and one that’s an herbivore, etc.)


  • Carve avocado pit pendants.
  • Measure the volume of snow when it’s frozen versus melted (and extensions from there).
  • Make a tabletop observation garden from root vegetables.

It’s $2.99 in the Kindle store, or free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.  It should be free sometime soon and I’ll post and let you know when that happens.


CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit

I’ve had my eye on this chemistry kit that caters to homeschoolers for a while now.  I featured it in my column back in 2011 here  and wrote:

If you’ve ever tried to put together your own chemistry kit for homeschooling, you know what an overwhelming (and expensive) task it can be. A new chemistry kit is now available to make it easier and more affordable for homeschoolers.

The CK01 Chemistry Kit contains everything needed (other than a few basic supplies like table salt) for a one year chemistry course, along with lecture notes.

The kit contains over 40 chemicals (such as Phosphoric acid, Thymol blue indicator solution and Copper), 25 types of equipment (with multiples of many of these, such as pipettes, beakers and alligator clips) and other related consumables such as cotton balls, cotton swabs, a lab notebook and pH test strips…

I have not tried the kit and have no affiliation with the company, but it sounds like an easy and affordable way to assemble a pretty thorough year of chemistry.

The kit now costs $184, with shipping available at an additional cost to countries such as Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

The manufacturer says:

Because chemistry is widely considered to be the most difficult lab course to do well—particularly on a tight budget—we offer the CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit. It provides a comprehensive, rigorous laboratory component for a first-year high school chemistry course, and does so affordably. With the exception of standard household items (such as table salt, sugar, vinegar, aluminum foil, foam cups, and so on) and other minor items that are readily available locally, the kit contains all of the special equipment and chemicals you’ll need for a complete chemistry lab course…

It’s a serious science curriculum, too, which can be modified to make a lighter version:

For a student who will go on to major in college in chemistry or another science, the kit provides a rigorous, comprehensive first-year chemistry lab experience. For non-science majors, you can, at your option, reduce the rigor and scope of the chemistry lab experience simply by doing only selected core lab sessions, while still providing an essential introduction to chemistry lab concepts and procedures.

I still have not tried the kit myself, but I have tried the book that it was created to accompany, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) (affiliate link), and I love the book!

This is truly a book for kids who want to do real science with real materials.  I loved reading about how the author discovered science as a child and how he worked to create a chemistry kit like those of his youth, before they were so “dumbed down.”  The book makes for a very thorough chemistry course/lab, and it is perfect for kids who love science or for kids who want to love science.

The book is not necessary to use the kit.  It comes with a complete PDF manual.  I do recommend the book in addition, just because it’s such a fantastic, thorough resource.

The CK01A kit provides 39 hands-on chemistry experiments in 14 topic areas:

Topic I. Separating Mixtures

Session I-1: Recrystallization
Session I-2: Chromatography
Session I-3: Solvent Extraction
Session I-4: Salting Out

Topic II. Solubility and Solutions

Session II-1: Solubility as a Function of Temperature
Session II-2: Conductance of Ionic and Molecular Solutes
Session II-3: Colligative Properties of Solutions: Boiling Point Elevation and Freezing Point Depression

Topic III. Chemical Reactions and Stoichiometry

Session III-1:  Observe a Composition Reaction
Session III-2:  Observe a Decomposition Reaction
Session III-3:  Observe a Single Replacement Reaction
Session III-4:  Observe Double Replacement Reactions
Session III-5:  Stoichiometry of Double Displacement Reactions

Topic IV. Reduction-Oxidation (Redox) Reactions

Session IV-1: Observe Oxidation States of Manganese

Topic V. Acid-Base Chemistry

Session V-1: Determine the Effect of Concentration on pH and the pH Range of Indicators
Session V-2: Determine the Molarity of Vinegar by Titration

Topic VI. Chemical Kinetics

Session VI-1: Determining the Effect of Temperature, Concentration, and Surface Area on Reaction Rates
Session VI-2: Determining the Effect of a Catalyst on Reaction Rate
Session VI-3: Determining a Reaction Order

Topic VII. Chemical Equilibrium

Session VII-1: Observe Le Châtelier’s Principle in Action
Session VII-2: Determine a Solubility Product Constant
Session VII-3: Observe the Characteristics of a Buffer Solution

Topic VIII. Gas Chemistry

Session VIII-1: Observe the Pressure-Volume Relationship of Gases (Boyle’s Law)
Session VIII-2: Observe the Volume-Temperature Relationship of Gases (Charles’ Law)
Session VIII-3: Determine Gas Mass Ratios by Effusion (Graham’s Law)

Topic IX. Thermochemistry

Session IX-1: Determine Heat of Solution
Session IX-2: Determine Heat of Fusion of Ice
Session IX-3: Determine the Specific Heat of a Metal
Session IX-4: Determine the Enthalpy Change of a Reaction

Topic X. Electrochemistry

Session X-1: Observe Electrolysis
Session X-2: Observe the Electrochemical Oxidation of Iron
Session X-3: Measure Electrode Potentials
Session X-4: Build a Voltaic Cell

Topic XI. Photochemistry

Session XI-1: Photochemical Reaction of Iodine and Oxalate

Topic XII. Colloids and Suspensions

Session XII-1: Observe Some Properties of Colloids and Suspensions

Topic XIII. Analytical Chemistry

Session XIII-1. Determine Boron Concentration with Curcumin
Session XIII-2. Determine Salicylate Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-3. Determine Vitamin C Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-4: Detect Lead in Household Materials

Topic XIV. Synthetic Chemistry

Session XIV-1. Synthesize Esters

If anybody out there has used this kit, I’d love to hear your experiences with it! 

The 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century

I came across this list of the supposed best novels of the last century at Modernlibrary.com:

On July 21, 1998, the Radcliffe Publishing Course compiled and released its own list of the century’s top 100 novels, at the request of the Modern Library editorial board.

Here’s the first 25:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Ulysses by James Joyce
  7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  9. 1984 by George Orwell
  10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
  12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  13. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
  23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Victoria has read at least 5 of the top 25 this year as part of her 9th grade reading plan and on her own (1984, The Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird).  I’m not sure how many she’s read of the next 75.

My own tally for how many I’ve read is shockingly low… about ten that I remember.  Several were on my reading lists in college and I managed to completely BS my way through all of the discussions, tests and essays without ever reading them.  College was a terrible time for me to actually try to learn anything, since I was so overwhelmed with life during that time.  I started college at 16, was married by 18, worked full time and then some, and navigated a rather brutal few years of tragedies (my aunt’s murder, my mother’s prolonged terminal illness, my own miscarriages, finding my long-lost father after he’d already died, and so on).  Heart of Darkness just wasn’t a priority, even if it was supposed to be.

Perhaps I ought to make up for it now and finally get to some of those novels.  🙂

What about you?  How many have you read?  Which ones would you add?

Latest writings elsewhere…

Kids can help name the Forelius pruinosus ant

Here’s a great way for kids to take part in current science and learn some cool information about ants in the process.Scientists at North Carolina State University are asking the public to help choose a common name…

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Free educational magazines from Early Knowledge for Kids!

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Fourteen U.S. retailers refuse to sign pledge for worker safety rights

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50 Deer resistant flowers, plants and herbs

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Sign up for a free digital subscription to new Natural Mother Magazine

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Kids can earn free books from B&N’s summer reading program

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Free app gives info on over 500 Minnesota museums

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Anna's 7th Grade Reading List

Anna's 7th grade reading list

I’ve just started on a suggested reading list for Anna’s 7th grade year. Here’s what we have on it so far.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgenson
Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Adam of the Road, By Elizabeth Janet Gray
Across Five Aprils, By Irene Hunt
The Hobbit, By J.R.R. Tolkien
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, By Elizabeth George Speare
The Diary of Anne Frank, By Anne Frank
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien
Mara, Daughter of the Nile, By Eloise Jarvis McGraw
The Iliad of Homer, By Barbara Picard
Caddie Woodlawn, By Carol Ryrie Brink
Heidi, By Johanna Spyri
Sarah Plain and Tall, By Patricia MacLachlan
Anne of Green Gables, By Lucy Maud Montgomery
Pollyanna, By Eleanor Porter
The Story Of My Life, By Helen Keller

She’s reading The Secret Garden right now and really loves it.  I believe she’s read most of Little Women, too.  My Kindle is great for finding classic children’s books for free!

There’s a mix of fun and serious, historic and fantasy.  I still want to look into more lists online and talk to her about other books she’d like to add. I’d like to add more good books with boys as the main characters, more historic fiction and some modern classics.

She’s already well acquainted with all of the Harry Potter books, the 39 Clues books and several other modern anthologies.

She also reads constantly on her own for fun, including modern fiction and lots of mythology, so she’ll continue to read her own choices.

Any you’d suggest?

Victoria’s 9th Grade Reading List

We’ve finished up our 9th grade suggested reading list for Victoria for next year, with input from various friends online, web sites, my own suggestions and Victoria’s requests.

She does not plan to read all of these, just a good portion.  We’ll discuss them as she goes and she may write reviews for sites like Amazon.com and write a few essays throughout the year comparing one to another, analyzing the meanings, etc.  I’m sure she’ll read many more besides the list and she’s got a log started to keep track.  These are the ones that seemed like good ones to focus on, though.

9th Grade American Literature Reading List:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Angelou)

Farenheit 451 (Bradbury)

The Red Badge of Courage (Crane)

Nineteen Eighty Four (Orwell)

The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

Animal Farm (Orwell)

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Franklin)

The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)

Carrie (King)

To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury)

Main Street (Lewis)

On the Road (Kerouac)

Lord of the Flies (Golding)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Stowe)

The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain)

The Joy Luck Club (Tan)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain)

The Secret Life of Bees

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass)

Little Women (Alcott)

The Help (Stockett)

The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)

The Giver (Lowry)

Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut)

The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood)

Short stories and poems by: Edgar Allen Poe, Steven King, Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelazny, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, Langston Hughes, e. e. cummings, Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Nikky Giovanni, James Wright, Ogden Nash, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Bishop, Phillis Wheatley

Short stories: The Yellow Wallpaper The Lottery The Telltale Heart Gift of the Magi Flowers for Algernon

I also suggested anything by Steven King if Carrie wasn’t available and we found a book in the library that she’s already devoured — The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  As an added plus, it had random pen marks about every third page after (or sometimes in) certain words, so we spent some time trying to crack the code and figure out what some library patron was trying to communicate.  🙂

She also already read Farenheit 451 (in less than a day, she was so caught up in it) and absolutely fell in love with the book.  She now wants a copy of her own and has dubbed it one of the best books ever.

This Year's Book Lists

I’m not doing much homeschool planning right now because the baby will be coming in early October (October 10th is the official date!) and I’m not naive enough to think I’m going to stick to a rigorous homeschool schedule with an impending birth or new baby.

That said, I’m doing up some general goals for the kids and that includes a reading list for the girls.

You know I’m not really the drill sergeant kind of homeschooler and these are flexible.  In the past, there have been a few times that I’ve suggested books and they haven’t been well received by the kids.  If that happens, they’re welcome to substitute other books or come back to those books later.  There are so many great books to read that I’m not going to force a dud on any of my kids.  🙂

Having been forced through Heart of Darkness in college didn’t do anything to change my life for the better, and I want to keep my kids passionate about reading.  There are enough books that they have loved that I don’t mind if they occasionally veto one or two.

That said, here’s my tentative list for each of the girls.

Victoria (13, 8th grade):

  • 1984
  • Animal Farm
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Huckleberry Finn
  • The Diary of Anne Frank (I’m not sure if she’s read it completely yet)
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Catcher in the Rye

Short stories:

  • Bernice Bobs Her Hair
  • The Yellow Wallpaper
  • The Lottery


  • Anne Sexton
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Survey of modern American poets

Anna (11, 6th grade)

  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Little Women
  • Everything I Need to Know in Life I Learned in Kindergarten
  • The Little Prince
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  • The Castle Corona
  • A Little Princess
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Black Beauty
  • The Chronicles of Narnia


  • Mythology
  • Fairy tales from other cultures
  • Short story collections


  • Survey of modern American poets
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Edgar Allen Poe (Anna shares a birthday with EAP and likes his poems like Annabel Lee)

For the boys, I just want them to continue to read lots of books (or be read to) and love books.  I’ll pick out books from the library to strew as much as possible, too.

I’m also planning on teaching a poetry writing unit to the kids for much of the year.  I was a poet in my younger years and both girls have shown a recent interest in writing poetry.  I really like pulling out books and journals to show the girls my poems published long ago, and I miss my days of teaching poetry.  I think we’ll have a lot of fun with it.

Do you have any plans for books for your kids this year?  Any titles that are on your must-read list for kids?  I’d love to hear some more suggestions!

Folktales, Freebies and more

Jason snatches the Golden Fleece. Greek Vase from the 5th century BCE (Metropolitan Museum, New York).

Here’s a round-up of stuff I’ve been meaning to share…

Fairy Tales, Folktales, Fables, and Folklore

This great web site contains hundreds of stories from mythologies around the world.  From Finnish folk tales to Anderson fairy tales to parables of Buddhism, there’s something for everyone.  This would be great to combine with studies of countries or family heritage.

70% of science fair winners are children of immigrants

Only 12 percent of Americans are foreign-born, the NFAP report says. Even so, children of immigrants took 70 percent of the finalist slots in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search Competition, an original-research competition for high school seniors.
Of the 40 finalists, 28 had parents born in other countries: 16 from China, 10 from India, one from South Korea and one from Iran.
“In proportion to their presence in the U.S. population, one would expect only one child of an Indian (or Chinese) immigrant parent every two and a half years to be an Intel Science Search finalist, not 10 in a year,” wrote the report’s author, NFAP director Stuart Anderson.
…”Our parents brought us up with love of science as a value,” David Kenneth Tang-Quan, whose parents emigrated from China to California, told Anderson, according to the report.
Pinterest pages
I’ve heard about Pinterest, where you “pin” web sites you like and can see what others pin, but I wasn’t all that interested.  Until I saw this mom’s homeschool pins and realized what fun this site could be.  I could lose a lot of time here!
Newest homeschool writings
Here’s what I’ve been churning out in the HS front lately at the examiner, on everything from free transcript templates to how Montessori changes from middle school to high school years…

And here’s the latest in other subjects…

And a little sap…  🙂

The Never-Ending Parent

On the personal front, the baby is now very, very wiggly.  He/she doesn’t have a certain time of day or night to bounce around.  It seems to be most of the time!  Hopefully we’ll get an ultrasound next month and finally get to know whether it’s a girl or boy.  I’m so impatient to know.

Victoria is visiting homeschool friends a few hours away this week.  I’m impatient for her to come home, even though I’m sure she’s having a blast.

Anna is taking Irish step dancing lessons for a performance she’ll be doing with a small group of girls in the pageant this year.  The teachers are local homeschool graduates who taught themselves to do Irish step dancing years ago and have performed all over through the years.

Jack and Alex are currently helping Daddy at the cabin and museum.  They’ve been spending much of their time outside and generally end each day covered in mud, sand, scrapes and who knows what else.  I do like summer!


Life Here in 10 Words and 10 Pictures

We’ve been so busy! Here’s 10 words and phrases to describe life here lately:

  1. Gardens
  2. Old friends
  3. Test prep
  4. Hiking
  5. Math discoveries
  6. Cleaning
  7. Photography
  8. Laughter
  9. Playing outside
  10. Reading

And 10 pics…

And a few links…

Sometime soon I have to post about Art Day at the Petroglyphs, the swan release, fried marbles and so much more.  Hope you’re having fun with your kiddos!  Back soon….